by Kyle Colona on March 7, 2012
Back in the day, my not so illustrious career in the finance sector kicked off with a now defunct investment bank high atop long fallen Tower Two of the World Trade Center. I served as a liaison between the legal department, the mortgage finance desk and the repo traders.
I helped create documents for various secondary market deals of collateralized mortgage obligations (cmos) which were bundles of securities with Fannie Maes, Freddie Macs, Ginnie Maes, and private mortgage bonds as the underlying paper. Sounds rather ominous, no? Indeed it was, since being young and green, I did not know the difference between a cmo and a donut hole. Now, as we all know, the value is about the same.
But once, on a late night in the office, I intuitively asked a mortgage high roller what happens if people don’t pay their loans. That query led to a verbal reprimand for insubordination. While not a good way to start a career, look who’s subordinated now!
Anyway, shortly after my arrival came the stock market crash in October 1987, which culminated with the collapse of financial firms like Kidder Peabody, Drexel Burnham, the savings and loan industry, and insider trading imprisonments for the likes of Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and a number of other big wheels. The savings and loan collapse was triggered by these firms’ investments in so-called junk bonds and repurchase agreements (“repos”) of mortgage-backed securities.
Looking back to see what’s become of the financial business leaves me with disturbing feelings. But as troubled as these times may seem, those days remind me that all things must pass. If we weathered that storm, we will survive this one too. I believe that in due time, the animal spirits of capitalism will return and high atop the wave will stand the conquering heroes who never gave up…and neither should any of you.
My journey has taken me to the strangest of places elsewhere through the legal and financial sectors where my last full-time stint was with a small compliance department for a multi-state subprime mortgage lender. This looks like a scene from one of those B-movies Gil Scott Heron once rapped about, huh?
After several years that saw all manner of legal and regulatory madness wash through the business, my former occupational provider got back on its feet. And my efforts as point person with all the state regulatory agencies helped to set things right. I was rewarded with a corporate title which proved to be the high water mark of my tenure in the finance sector.
By the fall of 2005, it looked to me like the real estate finance sector was about to tank so I charted a course that led me out the door by the summer of 2006 in a play to make a career transition. Since then I’ve been pursuing my writing avocation with more vigor, and the move while tough, was the right one to make despite the doubts of all the naysayers.
And my gut instincts were spot on, because a year or so later the mortgage business crumbled and by 2008 the subprime contagion had infected the entire global capital markets system. Soon thereafter many professionals, staffers, former colleagues and friends in the business from Main Street to Wall Street had their careers cut short.
It is rather unnerving to see the lingering damage, and I certainly did not escape the subprime contagion unscathed. But for those who may still be in a quandary after having 20 or more year long careers turn to ashes and dust and for those who have only just begun, be not afraid. Surely my tale is filled with highs and lows, and lots of in betweens and it’s taking forever to complete a transition to becoming an accomplished freelance writer, but worthwhile goals are never easy and there is always hope.
Kyle Colona is a New York based freelance writer and a Feature Writer for the Compliance Exchange and Wall Street Job Report. He has an extensive background in legal and regulatory affairs in the financial services sector and his work has appeared in a variety of print and on-line publications.